How are your tech implementations creating an interactive and effective learning environment for students ?
Arthur C. Clarke in one of his numerous amazing books once wrote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Perhaps the quest for this “magic” is what drives the technology adoption and advancement in our institutions. Being able to create an interactive and effective learning environment usually is the first and foremost area of focus of technology implementations in educational institutions. There are numerous examples where the use of technology has completely changed the way learning happens in the institution. Let us take an example from my institution, ours in a younger university and we play with new ideas quite often, ideas that we believe will change the experience of our students. In our School of Engineering, like most other institutions in India, computer science education is largely faculty driven. We had realised that the model needs to change from a rule based method to a motivation based method. We are using technology in order to offer a program to our students. The technology has helped us to create an instructional design that prepares students for the workplace.
One of the major factors impacting the learning environment and the experience is the loss of precious time due to activities like attendance taking. There are of course two schools of thoughts on this – one that believes that the time spent on taking attendance in a class is when the ice breaks and is a process through which the rapport between the teacher and the students grow over a period of time. And then there are others who believe that some of this time can be saved and converted to learning time. At our institution, we are implementing technology where image recognition is being used to identify the students in a classroom for attendance. The faculty member just takes some pictures using a smart phone and the activity is completed within a short time.
Any innovative implementation which has helped in streamlining operations at Adamas University ?
Technology plays a critical role in streamlining the operations of an education institution. We have adopted technology to integrate the processes on cloud based technology platforms, that connects all the crucial processes of the university like admissions, student and faculty records, functions of the office of the registrar, career development, professional studies, finance, human resources, routine management, examination processes, hostel, transport et al. The admission tests that used to be conducted in an exam centre format became online. In the admissions area we could introduce faster turn-around time, provide flexibility for aspiring students to give the admission test from wherever they want, even from their homes. Integrating the counseling teams and the contact centre teams over a cloud based enrolment automation platform significantly improved the performance.
How can higher education institutions leverage technology for dealing with unprecedented situations like the coronavirus outbreak ?
Covid-19 will definitely change a lot in the academic strategies of many organisations. As for us, we have realised that moving to a blended or hybrid learning model in all our programs will introduce an element of resilience in the structure. In blended or hybrid learning model, there is heavy use of technology. Typically, there is a Learning Management System aka LMS which is used to provide learning material and assignments to students prior to a class, after a class and even during a class. The classroom sessions are also converting to a teacher-instruction driven model to a mixed mode including flipped classrooms. The interesting by –product of such hybrid model is that, in case another such situation of a pandemic, a natural calamity or such other unprecedented events occur, both our faculty and students will be very comfortable to continue the learning on the 100 per cent digital model. It is also believed that such hybrid models amplifies the level of engagement and motivation of students, not only in the traditional classroom but is very effective in the digital model.
What have been your initiatives in this direction, since the start of the nation-wide lockdown?
Looking back to those early days of Covid-19 lockdown, we had realised soon that the lockdown was there to stay for some time. We took up many projects, one by one and enabled most of the university processes on the digital platform. All our academic and administrative meetings continued over video conference platforms. Faculty members started to take class as per routine using a variety of conferencing tools, a host of digital methods and a repository of learning materials. Counseling, admissions and enrolment activities became online. All workshop and seminars went online. The best of all, the controller of examinations and team evaluated this opportunity and are preparing for digital assessments on our exam management platform.
Are there any new projects / tech implementations you are looking at in the next few years ?
I believe that we have improvised, innovated and have been able to make most of the situation when we were suddenly dropped in to the lockdown mode. But this is not enough and we cannot wait for the next pandemic to hit us to start our innovation engines again. In my view there are some extremely important and urgent technology adoptions that all education institutions must look at sooner than later. Use of technology to increase the motivation in students, by “gamifying” lessons by incorporating game-like rules and tasks will be one of our highest priorities in terms of tech implementation. We will also be evaluating technology that enables project-based-learning which is again a very important aspect of our pedagogy and will help us to keep up to the changing attitude of students to traditional media and ways.
Which, according to you, are the emerging technologies that will make a significant difference in the education sector in the future ?
Blockchain based certificate repository, using artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to generate performance insights on students and faculty members, advanced level of proctoring solutions for digital exams, virtual and augmented reality simulations for lab and practical classes are some of the technology adoptions that many education institutions will be looking forward to, including ourselves.
Our quest for the “magic” continues !
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